What you need to know about client projects - The emotional journey (Part 2/2)

by Timea Demeter

In my previous post I wrote about what client projects are and shared a couple of tips on how to make the most of them.

What I haven’t mentioned then, is that there is an emotional “layer” to it.

I decided to dedicate an entire blog post for it as it’s such an important element of the whole weekly project experience. Just by being aware of what others have gone through, might help you understand what you are going through as well. Or at least feel that you are not alone.

After the first couple of projects I began to notice a specific emotional pattern that I go through during the week and that seems to repeat itself for each project.

The stages I’m about to describe might be different for other people, however I’m sure that everyone can identify themselves with at least one of them.

Stage 1 – We will conquer the world

Usually on Monday I start off being very positive, confident and curious about the project. During the kickoff I can already envision the amazing dashboard or amazing workflow that will be delivered at the end of the week, and can already see the clients nodding in appreciation of our work. 

After the kick off meeting we start planning the week, getting to grips with the data and dividing who will be doing what. At this stage there still is a burst of confidence and the feeling that so much can and will be done and the project will be a massive success.

Stage 2 – There might be a few difficulties, but nothing we can’t handle

A couple of hours into the actual work we usually realize that it’s not as simple as we initially thought, that there are quite a few caveats and a lot more things that need clarification.

As an example, this is when we realize that tables that should join have way to many records falling out, that some of the data is incomplete and that we have no idea how some calculations were made. We might also realize that the data set is too big and difficult to use in visualizations or that in order to create the visualization one needs to become an expert in table calcs.

However, because it’s still Monday and feel like there is plenty of time till Friday, possible solutions are still to be implemented there is still the confidence that we’ll find a way to figure things out, and pull together the most amazing project.

Stage 3 – This is NOT going to end well!

Towards the middle of the week we start feeling the time pressure and realize that we’re not going to complete everything we planned. By this time we have tried out most of the possible solutions that we had in mind on Monday and came to the conclusion that most of them don’t work.

Panic starts to creep in and the huge need to prioritize and reevaluate what we can actually deliver arises.  

This stage is important in terms of managing the client’s expectations as well as our own expectations of what we can achieve. This exercise helps relieve pressure and gives more clarity in terms of next steps.

Stage 4 – One final push

One day before the end of the project, the revised deliverables are starting to come together however there still is the (self-imposed) pressure and desire to maybe add something more and enhance the result.

Questions like “Have I done enough? Shouldn’t I do more?” are still lingering in my head.

Stage 5 – There is hope after all

The last day of the project is also the day in which we present our work to the client. This is when we are usually focused on adding the finishing touches, creating the documentation and putting together the presentation. I mentioned in my previous post the importance of practicing the presentation. So this is the best time for it. 

Not only that it brings everything together and makes sure that we are all consistent in what we are presenting it also creates an opportunity to look back and realise how much we actually achieved within that week. There’s also the rewarding feeling of seeing the client’s reaction and that the work is appreciated.

Although tired, I get back to the initial stage of enthusiasm and excitement that was present on Monday.

What about you?

As mentioned at the beginning, this experience varies from one person to the other. So it would be interesting to know how you felt when working on short term projects and which are the stages you go through.